Rabbi Andrea Cosnowsky, Senior Rabbi, came to Congregation Etz Chaim in 2005 from Congregation Beth Adam in Loveland, Ohio. Ordained in 2004 at the Hebrew Union College, Rabbi Cosnowsky had been the Student Leader Intern for URJ Outreach Fellows Program for Conversion Certification HUC, and continues her outreach work with the larger community through her work with DuPage United.
Rabbi Cosnowsky's blog
The holiday of Shavuot is quickly approaching. On Shavuot, we say the words, "Z'man matan Torateinu," “time time of the giving of our Torah.” We say we were given Torah at Mt. Sinai, rather than it was received. That is, the Torah was a gift or a Matana in Hebrew. All we have to do on Shavuot is eat blintzes and other dairy foods and receive this holy gift from God. However, the name of the holiday sheds light on what our job is during the weeks that preceded it.
The Haggadah tells us that God redeemed us with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Following 413 years of slavery and affliction, God sent the plagues to our oppressors, and we were about to leave Egypt. However, the Pharaoh reconsidered his decision to set us free and sent the Egyptian army to annihilate us. This was the first stage of God's redemption.
Last November, we welcomed a Torah from Wheaton College which was donated on permanent loan and placed in our ark. Since that time, we have kept the Torah on display in our ark, and will be using it during the Bat Mitzvah of Willa Fidlow in the coming weeks. Torah scrolls are not meant to be used as museum relics, but rather, Torah scrolls live when we engage in study and use them.
"This is the day that the Lord has made, let us be glad and rejoice in it." (Psalm 118:24) כד זֶה- ַהּיֹום, ָע ָשה יְהוָה; נָ ִגי ָלה וְנִ ְש ְמ ָחה בֹו
In 1913, in Berlin, Germany, a young Jewish man. Franz Rosenzweig, had fallen away from Jewish religious practice, like many of his Jewish friends. Some of them had converted to Christianity, and they urged Franz to do likewise. After all, they lived a modern German Christian world, and Judaism was just a relic of a bygone era that held little meaning for them. Franz agreed. He would convert to Christianity. But he felt that he owed it to Judaism to give it one more try. So when the High Holidays came around, he went to a tiny shul for Kol Nidre services.
Last week I was given the opportunity to sit on a panel at the Chicago Board of Rabbis to discuss whether or not to present politics and candidates’ positions from our Bimah on High Holidays. There, I told a story from my childhood: My parents were founding members of a now very prestigious and well known Westchester County, NY synagogue. Once its Rabbi gave a sermon which, in my parents’ eyes, favored one political candidate over another. My parents not only left that Temple, they left the Reform Movement!
On June 11th & 12th, we will celebrate the festival holiday of Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks. We conclude the counting of the Omer, and we recognize this as the wheat harvest festival when ancient Israelites brought their bread and first fruits to the Kohanim at the Temple in Jerusalem. It is also celebrated as the day the Israelites received the Torah at Mt. Sinai.
Congregation Etz Chaim has prided itself on being on the forefront of inclusion. The Union for Reform Judaism has charged congregations to become more inclusive to those who have special needs - especially where the religious school is concerned. Although we have always sought to provide a Jewish education for those who have desired to have one, we have stepped up our efforts to live up to this value. In the Chicagoland area, there is only one other congregation that has a designated Inclusion Specialist in their religious school.
The Lifelong Learning Committee is bringing a renowned scholar to Congregation Etz Chaim - Dr. David Ellenson, Rabbi. Not only is Dr. Ellenson well known, respected and regarded in the rabbinical world, he is well known in the scholarly world as well. He currently serves as the leader of Brandeis University’s Schusterman Center for Israel Studies. Prior to that, he was the President of the Hebrew Union College- Jewish Institute of Religion, the school from which Rabbi Bob, Rabbi Kamil and I graduated.